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Running Back Round-Up

Posted by zewkey on August 15, 2007

By Rob Griesemer, Fantasy Football Cafe Regular

So here we are in the middle of May, with the NFL off-season in full gear. The draft is over, teams are beginning their mandatory workouts, and can you believe it, TO was actually seen working out with Dallas last week! Even for football freaks like me it’s tough to keep up with all of the off-season moves, trades, and free agent acquisitions. David Carr’s now in Carolina, Randy Moss is in New England, and some teams have new big name rookies such as Jamarcus Russell in Oakland and Georgia Tech superstar Calvin Johnson in Detroit. All of these situations and many more will impact fantasy football next year. It’s very important to keep an eye on as many of these moves as you can in order to be fully prepared come the day of your fantasy draft.

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It’s essential to keep track of the key running back trades and moves that have occured so far this off-season and how they will affect the fantasy scene. The running back position is usually the foundation of a good fantasy team, so naturally this position is where many people focus a lot of analysis each year.

One of the biggest running back moves this off-season has been Denver’s acquisition of running back Travis Henry, formerly of the Tennessee Titans. Denver has been known in recent years as one of the most solid running teams in football. Anyone that runs for the Broncos is almost guaranteed to be a high impact fantasy player, and Travis Henry will be no exception. The only worry I have here is Mike Shanahan, the head coach of the Broncos. He seems to make it his mission to give fantasy owners headaches. He likes using multiple backs in his offensive schemes. Last season he drove fantasy owners nuts with Mike Bell and Tatum Bell, many times not even declaring a starter until gametime. Henry is probably going to be a late first round selection in twelve team leagues this year with good reason. The chances of him having at the very least a 1,000 yard season are almost 100% barring injury. He was at best a backup player on your fantasy roster last year playing with the Titans, but will be a hot commodity this year come fantasy draft day.

The Detroit Lions traded away star cornerback Dre’ Bly to the Broncos for running back Tatum Bell, another player, and a draft pick. For the past two years everyone has been waiting for Bell to explode in Denver, But as soon as he seemed to gain momentum, he would lose it. He would have a couple of amazing games, followed by some horrific ones. He would have a crazy eight yards per carry average with his first ten carries, than later in the game he would struggle for two yards per carry. Nobody knew what to expect from this guy and now he’s left Denver for Detroit. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for a career revitalization in Matt Millen land. They brought in wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the draft and still have running back Kevin Jones. Jones might miss significant time in 2007 due to a serious foot injury suffered late last season, but there have been conflicting reports regarding how much time he will or won’t miss over the past few months. I’ve heard he will miss almost all season from one article, only to read another that said he could be good to go at the start of the season. I think Tatum Bell is more insurance for Detroit than legit long-term runner. He’s worth a selection because he has the talent and ability, but he hasn’t shown me enough to take him with anything other than a mid-round pick on draft day. Also, keep an eye on T.J Duckett. Detroit scooped up this valuable TD-stealing vulture and that could greatly decrease Tatum Bell’s value depending on how often and how much Duckett gets in there. If you need a home run hitter, Tatum Bell is your guy, but be prepared to roll the dice almost every time you start him because the running back situation in Detroit will likely be cloudy come September. Even a Jedi master would have problems predicting this one.

“Hard to see the future is, yes, mmmmmm.” – Yoda

Tiki Barber decided to retire after an amazing career in New York, and for some reason the coaching staff doesn’t seem to have that much faith in Brandon Jacobs. They don’t appear convinced that he can carry the entire load alone. Perhaps his large frame and upright running style worries the Giants’ staff. In any event they pursued and acquired former Denver, and more recently Cleveland, running back Reuben Droughns. Droughns was primed for a decent season in Cleveland last year, and was being taken as high as the late second round in some fantasy leagues, but when All-Pro center LeCharles Bentley was lost for the season in a preseason practice it greatly affected Cleveland’s running attack in a negative way. Now Droughns is in the Big Blue and will probably share carries in a dual running attack with Jacobs. It’s hard to say who will get the most carries in any given game, but I’d have to say Jacobs may get more action because he’s adept at catching passes and has a big body for blocking on passing downs. I see Droughns as a relief guy for Jacobs, coming in every other series or so for some action, but not enough action for me to warrant any serious thought on him unless the Giants deal Jacobs or he gets hurt. Droughns should be a nice backup and potentially a decent starter if Jacobs goes down with injury.

With Reuben Droughns leaving Cleveland, the Browns filled their need at running back by acquiring former Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. I still remember that day in 2003, in week two, when Jamal ran wild for 295 yards and three TDs, to this day the most rushing yards in any single NFL game. Who was it against? None other than the Cleveland Browns! Kind of ironic that he goes to Cleveland, a division rival of the Ravens. Lewis has not been running with the same passion he seemed to run with in 2003, his 2,000 yard season. The past couple of years he has had contract woes with the Ravens, and some have said he might not have been giving his all. It’s possible his best days could be behind him, but a change of scenery might have been just what he needed. Cleveland also has the potential to be a very strong team this year and beyond with the additions they’ve made. However, I wouldn’t go all in with Lewis. In 2003 he was pocket aces, this year, I’d say he’s at best a pair of jacks. I’d throw some chips in the pot on him but don’t reach for him in your draft. He’s been taken in the early second round in some mocks and that’s pretty darn high for a guy who really hasn’t shown all that much the past three years, but if he falls to you in the third or fourth round and you need a potentially solid number two back, I’d go for him and be confident.

The Buffalo Bills dealt running back Willis McGahee to the Ravens this off-season. He has injury concerns, but has been pretty steady in his three years in the NFL. Some thought he may never come back from that devastating injury he suffered in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, but he has and has been a very consistent and strong runner in the NFL. I’d look for that to continue in Baltimore. He’s definitely a solid number one fantasy running back on a Baltimore Ravens team that should be very good in 2007, led by veteran quarterback Steve McNair, who leads a balanced attack which should keep opposing defenses on their heels almost every game. Buffalo was not a very good offensive team in the three years Willis was with them, and yet McGahee still put up some nice numbers. I see no reason for that not to continue with him in Baltimore, and in fact I think his numbers will improve overall, as he’s going to be the main man there, with no dreaded running-back-by-committee (RBBC) to worry about.

These are just five important running back moves in the NFL so far this off-season. Make sure you stay current with all the moves in the NFL and you will have that much more of an edge on your fantasy football competition!

Other notable RB moves:
Thomas Jones – New York Jets from Chicago
Dominic Rhodes – Oakland from Indianapolis
Ahman Green – Houston from Green Bay

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Posted in Ahman Green, Dominic Rhodes, Jamal Lewis, Reuben Droughns, Tatum Bell, Thomas Jones, Travis Henry, Uncategorized, Willis McGahee | 1 Comment »